Guest Writer:

John Lesow Guest Writer

John Lesow, B.Sc, J.D. has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1978.  Prior to retiring in 2013, he was Western Territory Manager for Cascade Canada Material Handling Products and resided in Point Roberts. He served two terms on the Whatcom County Planning Commission from 2005-2013.  He is a past Board Member of the Whatcom Humane Society and Treasurer of the Washington Press Association. (WPA)  He is the recipient of (7) Communicator of Excellence Awards from the WPA for published articles on a wide variety of subjects, including Land Use, Tribal Casinos, entertainment profiles and automotive commentary.

A dual citizen, he now lives in North Vancouver, B.C.and is a contributing member of the North Shore Writer’s Association.

Some Personal Experiences with Censorship in Whatcom County – And Some Suggestions for 2021

What follows is an account of my own personal experience with the consequences being a conservative Contributing Writer at Northwest Citizen, “The Oldest Political Blog in the United States”.

These comments may resonate with some who are frustrated with the ongoing lurch to the left in what passes for objective journalism in Bellingham in particular and Whatcom County in general.
I voted for Trump.  Twice.  The electoral outcome of my first vote was preferable to the second.

Three years ago, on January 17, 2018, myself and (4) other Whatcom County writers that supported Donald Trump were asked by John Servais to submit a few paragraphs on Trump’s performance after one year in office.Servais, the Editor and Publisher of the NW Citizen blog, assured the utmost secrecy as to the identity of the writers. (See link)

I did not ask for the anonymity that Servais guaranteed.   I figured that as a Contributing Writer at NW Citizen, my views were open to the debate provided online by Northwest Citizen to everyone.

   I submitted my response (see link) the following day.
As it turned out, the other (4) anonymous “conservative” writers chickened out. They did not submit anything.  A short time later, Servais broke his own “promise” of utmost secrecy by disclosing my identity to other writers at Northwest Citizen.
Lesson # 1:  Never place your trust in an untrustworthy Editor.  Particularly a cowardly one that will say one thing and do another.

As 2018 rolled along into 2019 and beyond, I found the particular brand of anti-conservative bias at Northwest Citizen became more strident and unfocused.  This was despite the fact my articles, which were mostly apolitical, included:

–Two articles on Justin Trudeau and the implications of Canadian oil prices at the gas pumps in both Whatcom County and the B.C. Lower Mainland.

–A review of a presentation by liberal MSNBC commentator Ali Velshi on “The Weaponizaton of Culture” delivered in Vancouver, BC. at a  sold out forum at the Orpheum Theatre.  The program was sponsored by the Peter Wall Institute, which vetted my article and approved it, as written, prior to my submitting it to NW Citizen.

–An article on a faith-based criminal justice program in Vancouver, “Circles Of Support and Accountability” which had been used successfully in reintegrating paroled felons into the community. I participated as a counselor in the program and provided a first hand account of it’s efficacy.  Interestingly, the COSA program is also used in the United States in California and Oregon, but has failed, so far, to get much support in Washington.

–A review of Candidate’s Night in Point Roberts, which included a video tape of the entire proceeding and real time responses to questions from Whatcom County Candidates for County Council, County Prosecutor, Public Utility District and County Auditor.

Throughout this time, anyone wanting to review these and other articles could do so by visiting and clicking on “John Lesow” from the 30 plus writers listed on the masthead. Comments, pro and con, were welcome.

That all changed on October 17,  2018 when I submitted an article on the legalization of marijuana in Canada, marking the day  that pot became legal across Canada.

The article was factual and critical of the way it had been introduced by the Canadian government. With warnings as to how wholesale legalization could have unforeseen consequences.
Servais refused to publish the article. Without explanation.
It was likely that Servais did not want to upset the pro-pot faction in Bellingham.  However,  this position was contrary to the advertised mission of Northwest Citizen, to “Trust the Common Sense of Citizens”.
The article was later reprinted in entirety by the North Shore Writer’s Association.

Also censored:

Also censored was another article I submitted on Alexandra Gill, a talented and respected restaurant reviewer for the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper.
Gill had just been banned from an upscale restaurant in Vancouver because she wrote a critical review.
This was about the time Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family was refused service at the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia for no other reason than she worked for President Trump.  The parallels between the actions of the restaurant management in Canada and the U.S. were obvious.  Servais concluded the article was “too incendiary” and refused to print it.
The final straw came when Servais removed my name from the NW Citizen masthead and blocked the general public access to my previously published articles. Not just the articles that were rejected without explanation.  Every article published at NW Citizen since I joined as a Contributing Writer in 2010.
This is where Servais and his LLC crossed the line between rejection and outright censorship of opinion.
In the meantime, I published articles on an “American writer’s blog”, “Writers on the Loose (WOTL)” to preserve their content and distribution.
You can find them under the heading, “Letters Censored by My Editor”
Rectifying censorship

What to do to rectify the censorship ?   I was advised by my attorney, Seth Fleetwood, that rather than spending time and money taking the matter to court (which I was prepared to do) I should contact the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center and schedule a meeting with Servais to mediate the matter.  An expeditious and relatively inexpensive alternative.  When a dispute is mediated, both sides are permitted to bring witnesses to testify on their behalf. scheduled a meeting, paid the fee for registering the dispute and had the Center contact Servais.  He refused to attend.  Following his refusal, I scheduled another meeting with Servais and his LLC, including Dick Conoboy and Deb Gaber.  All refused to attend.  Too bad.  I had several local writers who had agreed to testify on my behalf.  Including Jack Petree, Tim Johnson, Riley Sweeney and Wendy Harris.  It would have been a very enlightening meeting.

Moral of the story?  When the light is turned on, the roaches in the room run for cover. But they can’t hide forever.

Some tips:

If you want to fight censorship locally, you need to be persistent. It may take years, but eventually you will succeed.  Build a record.
In the meantime, use other venues for your written opinion.  Particularly if your facts and logic are sound.  All politics is local and so is local censorship.
Particularly by biased local liberal blogs that have outlived their usefulness.
Good luck.
Helpful links:  (Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center)
                         www.writersontheloose  (Writers on the Loose website)